At least 23 people have been arrested while protesting the arrival of a cruise liner from Russia in Batumi for the second time in less than a week.
They were detained on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police officers on Sunday, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Several hundred protesters gathered at the Batumi port on Sunday as the Astoria Grande, a palau-flagged cruise ship docked.
The ship commenced its voyage from Sochi, Russia, and entered Georgia via Trabzon, Turkey.
Local media reported that several dozen police officers were mobilised on Sunday night to set up barricades in anticipation of the cruise liner’s arrival the next morning. They blocked access to the port until the protest started.
The trip’s itinerary showed that several Russian celebrities were on board to provide entertainment.
The protest escalated after the vessel docked in port and its passengers were allegedly escorted by the police through cordons. Protesters threw eggs and bottles at buses bringing tourists from the ship.
The protests began the previous week after passengers from the same cruise liner visited Batumi on Thursday and made statements in support of Russia’s policy in Georgia to local media.
[Read on OC Media: Sochi cruise liner causes stir in Batumi]
Among those detained in Sunday’s protest was apparently a Ukrainian citizen, whose phone and personal belongings were reportedly confiscated by the police.
‘I have no way of contacting anyone, my phone has been confiscated. My Ukrainian flag was also confiscated’, she said as she was being escorted away from the protest by the police.
The Democracy Research Institute condemned the detention of protesters as ‘illegal’ and stated that freedom of assembly and demonstration are enshrined in Georgia’s constitution. They also accused Adjara’s police chief of attacking a protester and corruption.
‘Grigol Beselia, director of the Adjara Regional Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, is personally in charge of the arrests. According to one of the participants of the rally, he hit a girl in the face at the rally,’ read the institute’s statement.
Representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream party criticised the protesters.
Mayor of Tbilisi and Georgian Dream General Secretary, Kakha Kaladze, said that the protest in Batumi was directed against the country.
‘The door of Georgia is open for tourists. They can be Russian, European, American; I don’t see a problem’, he said.
The vice-speaker of the parliament, Gia Volski, repeated the words of the party’s chair, Irakli Kobakhidze, who on Thursday described the protesters as ‘boorish’ and added that the demonstration was ‘fake’.
‘Boorishness is the lightest assessment that Kobakhidze could have made’, he said, accusing the opposition of being behind the protest.
Following the protests, Astoria Grande’s website no longer lists Georgia among the destinations for upcoming cruises this summer.